Tom Paris spent the next several weeks avoiding Harry as best he could. Whenever the two shared a shift on the bridge, Tom did his best to keep Harry from getting in the middle of his tangles with Chakotay. That was the best part of the plan he was involved in. Needling Chakotay was fun since the man could be such a pompous jerk and came off as more than just a bit self-righteous. Still, he knew that Chakotay had no idea what was really going on and part of the reason was because of one of the parties involved — Seska. Janeway and Tuvok both worried about how Chakotay would handle himself if he were aware of just what was going on aboard the ship.
Still, there were times when he realized he might be pushing things just a little too far with his act. He sighed and glanced around to see Harry staring at him in shock. Tom could practically feel the outrage rolling off the commander as Chakotay glared at his back. He didn’t resist when Tuvok escorted him to the brig. This was how things had to play out and it could be for the best. Apparently Harry had said something to T’Loran and she’d taken to studying him whenever they were in the Mess Hall together. The looks that Vorik had shot his way would have made Paris think the Vulcan was jealous if he’d been human. Regardless of why she kept studying him, he had a feeling she was reading a lot more than he wanted her to if he were going to pull this act off successfully.
“Damn him!” B’Elanna growled when she heard the news. The rest of the Engineering crew on shift did their best to steer clear of her knowing just how foul-tempered she would be after learning that Tom Paris had landed himself in the brig and had been relieved of duty. Vorik and T’Loran shared a glance and a quick telepathic conversation before agreeing, mutually, that trying to calm the half-Klingon would be both a waste of effort and ineffective.
“What do you think is going on with Mr. Paris?” Vorik asked as he continued to work on the sensor logs.
“I think he’s got a hidden reason for what he’s doing,” T’Loran replied without taking her attention away from the EPS display. “I’ve been sensing a kind of schism in him. Not one that would indicate a separate personality or any kind of mental illness but enough of one to tell me he’s hiding something significant. I may go down to the brig to speak with him after this shift ends. Would you like to accompany me? We can complete our holodeck program afterward.”
“I will be happy to accompany you. I have also been sensing that Mr. Paris is hiding something. I have also picked up some kind of masked deception from Captain Janeway. Lieutenant Tuvok, on the other hand, has kept his thoughts private — not that I ever expected otherwise.”
“There is so much stress and ill-feeling on this ship of late,” T’Loran sent after a lengthy pause. “Even in my quarters, it is difficult to get away from it. The incident with the Vidiian woman put people on edge — not that they ever relaxed much from that run-in with the Cardassian missile followed by a visit from Q. I can somewhat understand the desire simply to get away from it all.”
“That’s different, T’Loran,” Vorik sent back with a wry sense of levity. “You don’t really want to leave permanently. You just want to get away from all of the strange sensations you’re still coming to terms with. However, as Mr. Suder has said, you will become accustomed to them and dealing with them will become as reflexive as breathing.”
T’Loran sent back a mild agreement and then returned to her work entirely. She felt Vorik doing the same. Their shift ended a few hours later and they both heaved mental sighs of relief at successfully having avoided catching B’Elanna’s attention during the rest of the shift. Once they had both signed out of their work stations, they left Engineering together and walked down the corridors towards the turbolifts in tandem. Vorik had his hands clasped behind his back and T’Loran was massaging her left hand with her right. They did not speak but the silence was comfortable. As they took the turbolift down to the deck containing the brig, Vorik stepped back so he could unobtrusively study the woman. Something about her appealed to him and he had been puzzling over it for several days. He knew that the woman he had been betrothed to back on Vulcan would have long since found a new mate. However, he was curious about whether or not T’Loran was bonded to another male. The thought that she might be bonded disturbed him for some reason. Mentally, he checked over his internal calendar and nearly groaned when he realized what was beginning to happen. He would undergo pon farr within the next year. Obviously, he was beginning to lose some of his more logical processes as his biochemistry began to alter slightly in the months leading up to the time he would completely lose control.
The turbolift stopped and the doors slid open. The two of them stepped out and began heading down the corridor towards the brig. T’Loran glanced over her shoulder at Vorik as if she were sensing something odd from him. He kept his expression pleasantly neutral and strengthened his shields a bit and felt a wash of relief when she gave the ghost of a shrug, a small shake of her head, and looked forward as if assuming that whatever she had picked up had come from someone else or was just a quickly passing thought from Vorik and not worthy of her attention.
The guards assigned to the brig nodded at her and at Vorik as they passed through the entryway and into the brig proper. Lieutenant Paris was laying on his cot, drumming his hands against his chest as he stared at the ceiling. T’Loran cleared her throat and Paris turned his head and then groaned. “I should have guessed that Harry would send you to give me a talking-to.”
“Mr. Kim has not sent either of us,” Vorik replied evenly. “We came on our own because something about your recent behavior has been disturbing.”
“Everyone has found my recent behavior disturbing,” Paris grimaced. “I’m just sick and tired of trying to force myself back into the Starfleet mold.”
“There’s more to it than that,” T’Loran said calmly. “You’re trying to deceive everyone into thinking you are tired of being with Starfleet but that is not the actual problem. Why are you lying to everyone and acting out? It is most illogical.”
“Just let it go, T’Loran. Quit digging through my head.”
“She can’t control what you’re sending out to everyone,” Vorik bristled slightly. “Even I have picked up on it.”
“Let it go.”
“I’m asking you as a friend to let it go, T’Loran,” Paris pleaded. “This is not something you need to pry into.”
“Very well,” she sighed. “I will respect your privacy in this matter. However, Ensign Kim is extremely worried about you. Perhaps you could do something or say something to him that might help him overcome his anxiety in this matter?”
“I don’t think there is anything I could do to make him happy with the decision I’ve made,” Paris sighed. “Still, I’ll see what I can do.”
The chime at the door pulled Vorik and T’Loran out of their shared meditation. T’Loran rose to her feet gracefully and walked over to the door, releasing the lock and opening it. She was surprised to see Lieutenant Tuvok standing in the hallway with a rather severe expression on his face.
“Lieutenant, please, come in,” she said politely as she stepped to the side to allow him to enter. He nodded coolly to her and stepped into the room, allowing the door to close. “We were working on our meditations and testing the differences between our styles of telepathy,” she explained as she wondered if he would object to her and Vorik exploring their telepathy.
“I understand that you both visited Lieutenant Paris in the brig earlier,” Tuvok said. “You both indicated that you were aware of a deception on his part. What I am about to tell you must go no further. Events must play out in a certain manner and one of the steps necessary is for Tom Paris to leave Voyager. There is a spy on board…”
The two ensigns listened attentively and masked their shock and disgust at what the lieutenant was telling them. Neither of them had much cared for Seska when the Maquis had joined the ship and now they knew that their earlier assessments had been correct. Neither had been privy to the details about how she came to leave the ship and join the Kazon but both had heard enough from Carey and Torres to have their suspicions. When Lieutenant Tuvok completed his explanation, no telepathy was needed for them to know they were in agreement on this.
“We will keep this information to ourselves, Lieutenant,” Vorik said. “No one will ever know we knew.”
A few days later, Tom Paris left Voyager to join a Talaxian crew. Neelix and Harry Kim were upset at his departure but Vorik and T’Loran accepted it with their customary stoicism and continued to work calmly side-by-side in Engineering. They kept a careful eye out for suspicious behavior after Neelix’s revelation that Tom Paris was a traitor. However, neither of them were in Engineering when the real traitor, Michael Jonas, tried to hand the ship over to the Kazon-Nistrim. Fortunately, his plan was thwarted by Neelix’s fighting ability and Paris returned to Voyager, vindicated and his role in the deception revealed for all to see.
As time went on, Vorik continued to monitor his biochemistry and to do his best to suppress the imbalances. He knew that, as time progressed, they would be more and more difficult to control through meditation and, eventually, they would completely overwhelm him. He ran through the list of female crew members and sighed. There were only two he would consider prospective mates — B’Elanna and T’Loran. Logically, T’Loran was his preferred choice. She was Vulcan in every manner except biology and they were quite close and comfortable around one another. However, he was uncertain how well she would be able to handle the physical stress of pon farr and how she would react when his mental control dropped completely and she found herself awash in the deep and powerful emotions that only a strict adherence to logic could constrain.
Not to mention the fact that he still had not found a way to ask her about whether or not she were bonded. Logically, he knew that such a conversation should be no more difficult than a conversation about which meditation practice she preferred but he found himself off-balance enough that it seemed much more difficult. Still, if she were bonded, her potential mate had more than sufficient reason to consider her lost and to choose another. He was in the same situation himself. Reminding himself for the dozenth time that he might as well get the conversation over with and see if she would be amenable to his declaring koon-ut so’lik, he headed towards her quarters.
Before he could reach them, a call went out for all senior officers to report to the bridge. Grimacing, he turned and headed back towards Engineering. T’Loran would be there to help cover the gaps while Lieutenant Torres met with the others on the bridge. The conversation could wait until after they were both off-duty again.